As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to transform the way we interact with machines, data and each other, it is bringing a new level of connectivity that is evolving today’s warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing environments.
Unfortunately, the tangible benefits and business value tied to greater connectivity are being overshadowed by the hype. The result is confusion, frustration and false starts as pilot projects don’t deliver on unrealistic claims or require more resources, time or dollars than initially suggested.
Much of this can be blamed on over promises and unrealistic expectations. However, it is also caused by companies not understanding how to introduce connected technology into the facility, how best to manage the process to work toward measurable, obtainable goals and deliver value, and how to identify, prioritize and act on the data that is gathered.
While cost and complexity are valid concerns, when done correctly and deliberately, establishing and expanding connectivity within the facility can provide valuable visibility into your operation. Much of the technology involved is proven, relatively simple and available today.
What is a connected facility?
Greater connectivity unlocks the wealth of data within your facility, creating the visibility and control to optimize performance and automate processes. A connected facility enables you to shift away from individual components or equipment to a view that encompasses your entire facility and how its systems and components work together to deliver measurable business value.
Individual components no longer work independently. They are interconnected and communicate with other components and equipment. Working hand-in-hand with other systems and technologies, they can improve productivity, efficiency and safety.
Sensors, software and computing devices are embedded into these connected components, equipment and systems to enable them to collect, send and receive relevant data that can be used to provide greater understanding of your operations and make strategic decisions.
For instance, consider the forklift. Given its prominent role in the supply chain in enabling product movement, it provides an ideal starting point for your connectivity efforts.
There is a wealth of data that can be gathered from the forklift, including data on operator performance, product movement and equipment status and health. You can gain a better understanding of when, where and how your fleet is operating, as well as identify those operators who are performing at the desired level and those who may need more training or coaching. Much of this information is available today with the technology that is currently on the market.
When you approach greater connectivity with an informed and strategic focus, you can position your facility for future optimization and give your company a powerful tool to identify and resolve issues that drain productivity and hinder efficiency.
For more information on creating a connected facility, download Crown’s e-book, Achieving Material Handling Connectivity.